The Penitent Magdalene
Oil on canvas
35 x 47 ¾ inches
(89 x 121 cm)
BPrivate Collection, England
Private Collection, Sweden
Silvia Benassai, Onorio Marinari, Florence, 2011, no. 81, pg. 152, plate 13.
Onorio Marinari’s paintings are notable for their sincere devotional character expressed through figures of uncommon sensuality. In this evocative depiction of Mary Magdalene, the saint is placed in a rocky setting at the entrance of a cave. She is here a young woman of exceptional beauty with a delicate rosy complexion and long hair that flows over her shoulders and penitential hairshirt, but remains contained within her crimson robes. She reads in a book supported by her right hand, as she delicately turns a page with her left --the choice of hands subtly indicating that the devotional text is written in Hebrew. Before her are a skull and a reed cross, the traditional objects of her meditation, while in the shadows at the extreme left appears the small unguent jar associated with her anointing of Christ’s feet.
Marinari was born in Florence in 1627, the son of a relatively unknown painter named Gismondo Marinari. According to his first biographer, Filippo Baldinucci, Onorio studied with his father before entering the studio of his friend and cousin, Carlo Dolci. In his first years working with Dolci the young artist specialized in producing copies of the master’s work --so finely painted they were said to be indistinguishable from their models. Subsequently, Marinari worked with the painter Volterrano before traveling to Rome and to Lombardy. Known as a pious and intensely religious man, Marinari is known to have designed sundials –he published a treatise on their construction in 1674--as well as having being an accomplished performer of the viola.
Marinari’s career is marked by major religious commissions throughout Tuscany. Altarpieces in Florentine churches, as well as small devotional paintings for private patrons, are documented from the 1650s to his final decade. His paintings are invariably sophisticated in composition and luxurious in color; his style, with its porcelain-like treatment of the flesh and subdued sensuality, represents one of the high points of the Florentine Baroque.
Dr. Silvia Benassai has confirmed Marinari’s authorship of the Penitent Magdalene and it is published in her new publication Onorio Marinari, Florence, 2011 on page 152 and plate 13.